Florida Gators vs. Arkansas Razorbacks – 2016 Preview

Via Last Word On College Football, by Zach Jones

The Florida Gators are 6-1 and number 11 in this season’s first College Football Playoff Rankings, released on Tuesday. Many are using the Gators as the demarcation between teams that can make the playoff and those already eliminated. At the same time, their schedule to date is underwhelming. It consists of teams with offensive efficiency ratings all worse than 50th in the country. On top of that, Florida’s only win against a team above .500 came against Kentucky. But none of that really matters, the Gators control their own destiny in the SEC East and the playoff hunt and must take things one week at a time. This week, that means getting ready for a cross-division road trip to Fayetteville to take on Brett Bielema’s pro-style attack. Let’s take a look at this week’s Florida Gators vs. Arkansas Razorbacks – 2016 Preview.

JACKSONVILLE, FL - NOVEMBER 01: Adam Lane #22 of the Florida Gators displays his gloves before the game against the Georgia Bulldogs at EverBank Field on November 1, 2014 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
JACKSONVILLE, FL – NOVEMBER 01: Adam Lane #22 of the Florida Gators displays his gloves before the game against the Georgia Bulldogs at EverBank Field on November 1, 2014 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

Florida Gators vs. Arkansas Razorbacks – 2016 Preview

When Florida has the Ball

Arkansas surrendered 543 rushing yards to Auburn in their last game. That’s the most an FBS team has allowed this season and the most ever in an SEC game. It’s not like most of those came in garbage time either as Auburn gained 183 rushing yards by the end of the first quarter.

Unfortunately for the Razorbacks, the Gators will have all four of their running backs ready to go this week. Jordan Scarlett and Lamical Perine handled the load against Georgia just fine. However, having Mark Thompson and Jordan Cronkrite back means Florida has four guys capable of putting up 100 yards behind an O-Line that looks like it’s finally coming around after some rough stretches earlier in year.

Scarlett will deservedly get the first opportunity, but don’t be surprised to see Head Coach Jim McElwain give the other backs chances early and ride a hot hand if one manifests.

The Gators’ red zone efficiency is noteworthy, as they score just 72.4% of the time inside the 20-yard line, ranking 122nd in the FBS. The O-Line’s struggles have certainly contributed to the issue here, but the emergence of Tyrie Cleveland should help McElwain and offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier space the field and create options in the passing game to keep defenses honest.

Cleveland hauled in a 46-yard deep ball against Missouri, and if he can emerge as a legitimate threat on the perimeter, opposite Antonio Callaway, it will do wonders for Del Rio and the Gators’ passing attack.

GAINESVILLE, FL - OCTOBER 15: Tyrie Cleveland #89 of the Florida Gators rushes past Donavin Newsom #25 of the Missouri Tigers at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on October 15, 2016 in Gainesville, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
GAINESVILLE, FL – OCTOBER 15: Tyrie Cleveland #89 of the Florida Gators rushes past Donavin Newsom #25 of the Missouri Tigers at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on October 15, 2016 in Gainesville, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

What’s Up with Luke Del Rio?

In the preseason I predicted Luke Del Rio to, “look calm and collected, make quick reads, clean throws, and good decisions while solidifying himself as the Gators’ leader for the next three seasons.”

He’s certainly lost his poise and made some bad decisions after returning from an MCL-sprain, failing to fulfill my prediction. YET.

The O-Line just hasn’t helped him feel comfortable after the injury, and it’s shown. He’s panicked under pressure and subsequently made bad throws and been picked off four times in two games. The stop and start nature of Florida’s October hasn’t done him any favors either, with the postponement of the LSU game and the off week before Georgia. While the extra practice reps certainly help, they don’t compare to game reps Del Rio needs to really shake off the rust from a knee injury. He should have those reps under his belt now and be able to get the offense on track.

This will be the week the O-Line and Del Rio turn the corner.

JACKSONVILLE, FL - OCTOBER 29: Florida Gators quarterback Luke Del Rio (14) delivers a pass behind Florida Gators offensive lineman Martez Ivey (73) in the 1st quarter of the NCAA football game between the Florida Gators and Georgia Bulldogs on October 29, 2016 at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, FL. (Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
JACKSONVILLE, FL – OCTOBER 29: Florida Gators quarterback Luke Del Rio (14) delivers a pass behind Florida Gators offensive lineman Martez Ivey (73) in the 1st quarter of the NCAA football game between the Florida Gators and Georgia Bulldogs on October 29, 2016 at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, FL. (Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

When Arkansas has the Ball

The Gators held Nick Chubb and Sony Michel to 22 yards and prompted them to call a meeting with Jim Chaney, their offensive coordinator, on Monday to discuss their concerns going forward. And Georgia was the first team to score against the Gators in the first quarter this season. Take a moment to let that soak in.

Florida’s defense hasn’t faced a truly potent offense yet, but they are making teams implode. Arkansas combined for 98 rushing yards against Alabama and Auburn, and it’s unlikely they top 100 on the Gators. Rawleigh Williams III led the SEC in rushing prior to their game against Auburn, but he and Devwah Waley aren’t as good a duo as Chubb and Michel, who failed to produce against the Gators. While Arkansas’ O-Line is massive, the largest in the SEC, the Florida defensive line is too athletic and will overmatch them.

Jarrad Davis — Butkus Award semifinalist — and Joey Ivie played last week at less than 100% so they’re conditions have naturally improved. Meanwhile, Florida will see the return of Bryan Cox Jr., a senior defensive lineman and NFL talent who broke his hand in a freak accident warming up for Missouri. A healthy defense spells trouble for Williams, Waley, and quarterback Austin Allen.

Allen has thrown at least one interception in each of his last three games, including three at home against Alabama. Expect for Jalen Tabor and Quincy Wilson to take some chances going after the ball when Arkansas decides to throw.

Wrap Up

FAYETTEVILLE, AR - OCTOBER 5: Ike Hilliard #19 of the Florida Gators runs with the ball against the Arkansas Razorbacks on October 5, 1996 at Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville, Arkansas. The Gators defeated the Razorbacks 42-7. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
FAYETTEVILLE, AR – OCTOBER 5: Ike Hilliard #19 of the Florida Gators runs with the ball against the Arkansas Razorbacks on October 5, 1996 at Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville, Arkansas. The Gators defeated the Razorbacks 42-7. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Arkansas will certainly be pumped up for a game in Fayetteville, coming out of an off week, eager to erase the memory of the beat down Auburn unleashed on them their last time out. However, Arkansas is giving up 45 points per game in conference play, and you just don’t fix a defense that atrocious over a two-week period.

While the Gators may not by an offensive juggernaut, they’ll certainly be able to run the ball, control the clock, and keep that ferocious defense well-rested. Look for Luke Del Rio to show strides as the Gators handle an overmatched Razorback squad that will be hard-pressed to do anything on offense.

Prediction

Florida 31-10

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